Avalon 9.4 Broadside, part 6 of 6

Most of the men, soldiers and sailors did not make it, but some did for two reasons.  Elder Stow, at the last minute, removed the wall setting and placed an invisible globe of force around the travelers, Captain Hawk and his immediate crew of officers, many Dutchmen, and some Spaniards.  He slowly expanded the bubble as he flew to the edge of the beach.  Once the travelers could wade out into the water, he let the bubble go.  They would have to swim a bit, and their weapons and rifles would need some care to be restored, but they would be safe.  Besides, they had help.  The other reason some made it to the ship.  Three hundred mermen came out of the bay.  They carried harpoons they could throw and trident-like pikes they could use to cut and stab from a distance.  The mermen, legs on, made a way through the spiders for men to get to the sea where the mermaids waited to carry them to the ship.  As frightening as the mermaids were for some of the sailors, the spiders were worse.

As Captain Hawk climbed aboard the ship, he realized the bay was full of his water sprites.  He understood then why the spiders had not overrun the Golden Hawk.  He saw that any spider that put so much as a foot in the water got grabbed and pulled under to drown.  The Mere people just made it so much worse for the spiders.

The mermen did not stay on land very long.  They quickly pulled back into the water, effectively abandoning the rest of the men to their fate.  By then, there were not many left alive.  The deck of the Golden Hawk was littered with men, soaking wet from the sea and from the sweat of fear.  It would be a long time before the nightmares went away.

The shoreline still teemed with spiders, but Inaros pointed to the edge of the woods where after a moment they heard musket fire and arrows began to bombard the spiders.  General Diego had arrived.  The Buccaneers were there to cut off escape to the north.  The natives pressed in from the south.  And now that the sea was certain death, it was only a matter of time before the spiders were finished.  They had nowhere to escape.  Half, or more of the men would die in the fight, but they would finish the job.  Captain Hawk knew his little ones would scour the whole island.  No spiders on the island would survive.

Inaros pointed up.  The old Agdaline transport had taken to the sky and was headed right toward them.

“Damn,” Decker noticed, and then everyone noticed.

Captain Hawk shouted.  “Mister Peevy!  Prepare the ship for flight.”

“Aye Captain,” came the response.

The captain spoke more quietly to Elder Stow.  “Can you project screens all around the ship?”  He explained for the others.  “Agdaline ships are big transports, not warships.  They only have… er, ray-guns to remove objects in space that might damage them or maybe to clear a landing site during planetfall.  Those systems, though, can be used as weapons, so we need protection.”

“Yes,” Elder Stow responded.  “But we will pick up a lot of water and anything that happens to be swimming in it.”

“Wait until we are high enough in the air.”

Elder Stow got out his scanner.  “I did not see any flight engines aboard.”

“Ready Captain,” Peevy shouted.

“Never mind about that.  Just get ready to set your screens,” Captain Hawk said before he returned the shout.  “Take her up.”

The ship rose right out of the water.  General Diego’s men who made it to the shore gawked, shouted, and pointed.  The Agdaline ship came overhead, and as expected, they fired their meteor deflectors.  Fortunately, Elder Stow got the screens up in time, so the makeshift weapon did not touch them.

“One moment,” Elder stow said, as he set his screen device down by the main mast.  He had his scanner out and his weapon.  Sukki said she was ready.  Captain Hawk talked to Lockhart and Katie.

“The thing is, there are probably a thousand or more spiders still aboard the ship in suspended animation or cryogenic sleep chambers, or whatever the current term of use may be.  They will have to be dealt with at some point, but I take back what I said about this day and age.  By brute force and with gunpowder, the human race might be able to fend off the spiders.  Of course, maybe not when the spiders are counted in the trillions.”  He shrugged.

“Let’s not let it get to that point, if you don’t mind.”  Lockhart said, as Katie interrupted.

“So you know.  I saw Captain Esteban and his officers taken by a dozen spiders.  It was while we were running.”

“I can confirm that,” Lockhart said.

“Sadly, there is still Don Fernando Delrio, the mastermind behind the idea of colonizing the Southern United States.  He is the one that mostly needs to be stopped, before the Atlanta Braves become the Bravos de Atlanta.”  Captain Hawk interrupted himself as he saw they were coming up alongside the Agdaline ship.  He anticipated what Elder Stow was working on and shouted.  “Mister Peevy!  Prepare a broadside.”

“Aye Captain.”

Elder Stow raised his weapon and fired, striking the Agdaline ship in three places.  The first shot took a moment to penetrate the Agdaline screens, but the second and third shots were swift.  Sukki, eyes on the scanner, confirmed the three shots struck home.  Elder Stow took the scanner to double check while Sukki explained to Lockhart and Katie.  Decker, Nanette, and Lincoln all walked up to listen.

“The first shot took out the Agdaline screens.  The second killed the weapons system.  The third damaged the engines in a way that would not explode.”

Elder Stow mumbled.  “I figured an atomic-level explosion was not a good idea.”  He looked up from his scanner and spoke more clearly.  “Hopefully, they will come down in the sea and all drown.”

Captain Hawk did not hear.  He was busy shouting, “Fire!”

The broadside from the Golden Hawk, in an equal and opposite reaction, pushed the ship away from the Agdaline transport and into a cloud that was both cold and wet.  The ship rocked a bit, and the deck became slippery to stand on, but at least no one fell overboard.  The little ones keeping the ship up in the air complained but things settled down quick enough.

They came out of the cloud in time to see the Agdaline ship head off to the north.  She had a dozen big dents in the side with a couple of loosened plates in the outer hull, and she had at least five holes in the ship, ruining the ship for spaceflight. Her engines were smoking, badly.  She would not stay aloft for very long.  In fact, she managed to fly all the way to the Delaware River where she sank, somewhat deliberately in the soft mud by the river.  She would awaken, and the spiders would make a mess in the future, but that is a different story.

Aboard the Golden Hawk, the captain shook his head.  “We can do up and down and sail some if we get a good tail wind, but it is very draining on the little ones keeping her up.  No way we can follow the ship and see where it lands.  That will have to be a future headache.”  He shouted again.  “Mister Peevy!  Get the boards and raise the Jolly Roger.”

The boards held the words, Flying Dutchman.  They effectively covered the ship name, Golden Hawk.  The flag had the expected skull and crossbones, but it was offset to make room for an hourglass.  “What do you think?” the captain asked.  “I’m about a hundred years ahead of time with the flag, but someone has to start it.”  He smiled for everyone, and Inaros said Argh

The ship set down in the bay virtually in the same spot where it began, but now pointed out to sea.  They unloaded the surviving Spanish.  General Diego would take them back to Santo Domingo.  The Buccaneers, mostly French and some English, knew Captain Hawk and his crew, and they waved like they were all great friends.  They were not all great friends.  The native survivors did not appear to know what to think.  These Europeans were full of surprises.  But mostly, these spiders were creatures of nightmares.  Who knew what tales they might tell?

Once the deck was cleared, the ship set sail for Guantanamo Bay.  They would sail two days to get there, as long as the weather held.  The travelers would be able to rest there for a couple of days while Captain Hawk sailed back to Hispaniola.  Then they would travel half a day inland across Cuba to reach the time gate.  In all, about a five-day journey to the next time gate. That was not so bad, if the horses did not complain after all that rest and pampering.



The travelers arrive in the frozen north and Lady Elizabeth of Gray Havens brings her recruits into a strange world. Monday. Men in Black. Happy reading.


Avalon 9.4 Broadside, part 5 of 6

“You can see for yourself.”  Captain Esteban pointed behind him where the travelers waited.  “I have not damaged them.  I have treated them well.  They even have all their equipment.  I figured we will need their help to drive out whatever landed here in the west.  Do you think?”

“Spiders,” Captain Hawk said, confirming Lincoln’s word.

“As I feared,” Captain Esteban responded.

“We will begin by moving the travelers and their horses to the Golden Hawk.  Then we will discuss what we can do about the spiders.”

Nanette and Suki left off tending the Spanish wounded.  The Spanish were grateful for the help.  Tony had Ghost and the horses and found a dozen human looking men come to help him transfer the horses to the frigate.  They looked human enough, but Tony suspected they were not, given the way the horses readily responded to them.

“Sukki,” Captain Hawk called her and hugged her.  Lincoln had to ask.

“Peter van Dyke?”

“Captain Hawk,” Katie called him.

“It is all in the profile,” Captain Hawk said, and he lifted his eyes and showed the side of his face.  With his aquiline nose, he did look a bit like a bird of prey.

Captain Esteban let his hostages go without trouble.  He had no choice.  His crew had been damaged.  His ship shredded.  His company of soldiers remained intact, but they would all be needed if they indeed faced spiders from the stars.  Besides that, he would need the guns of the Dutchman and his soldiers, and the Dutchman’s ship if retreat became the only option.  If giving up his hostages ensured cooperation, he would do that.

“But look,” Captain Esteban said.  “Neither you nor the Masters want an invasion of alien spiders at this time.  You see my good faith in bringing the Travelers from Avalon to you unharmed.  Perhaps we can make a temporary truce until these spiders are taken care of.  You know, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

“The enemy of my enemy is still my enemy,” Captain Hawk countered.  “I do not trust you, but I will use you and your men in this circumstance as I am sure you will use me and my men.”

Captain Esteban grinned before he nodded.  “I was told you are no fool.”

“But maybe I am.  Eh Inaros?” Captain Hawk grinned at his mate.  “General Diego has crossed through the mountains with three thousand men.  They are not all soldiers from Spain, but they all know how to fire a matchlock and can use spears and knives.  LeBlanc has brought around three thousand Buccaneers down from the north.  He has some English pirates with him as well.”

“I was not aware there were that many Buccaneers,” Captain Esteban interrupted with a pull on his beard.

Captain Hawk nodded.  “Then in the south, the Taino and Carib have made a temporary truce, like us, and they have come up with some three thousand more.  My spies tell me the circle is about closed.  The spiders have nowhere to go except this direction, or back to their ship.  Let us hope they retreat to their ship.”

“You are mad,” Captain Esteban said.

It did not take long for Ghost and the horses to be loaded on the Golden Hawk.  Captain Hawk gathered two hundred soldiers and sailors, leaving plenty of men to guard the ship.  He had a company of fifty well-disciplined Dutch regulars.  The rest were from the Netherlands, Holland, England, and some from Brittany, or they were little ones, at least a few, disguised as men.  Captain Esteban gathered two hundred and fifty soldiers and sailors still able to fight.  He left the wounded on the shore and smiled to think he had the numbers to pull a double-cross until a hundred more natives and pirates appeared in the woods.  Captain Esteban frowned at the turning of the odds.  The travelers guessed that these were all native little ones come to lend the Kairos a hand.  Katie guessed in their natural appearance they might look something between gnomes, elves, and dwarfs with a couple of ogre-trolls and maybe a few flyers, if not exactly fairies in the mix.

“Off to see the wizard,” Captain Hawk announced, and the men began to move in among the trees as quietly as they could.  “The wizardess,” Captain Hawk corrected himself.  “The chief spider is a female.”

Lockhart stood close and his old police instincts flared.  “Are you afraid Captain Esteban might make a deal of some sort with the spiders?”

Captain Hawk shook his head.  “He might have with some other species, but spiders do not deal.  They might let someone live a while if they are useful, but they will eventually be eaten.  Spiders don’t bargain.”

“But you said the female was especially intelligent.”

Captain Hawk nodded.  “They may have come here in an old Agdaline transport as Elder Stow has suggested. There may be ten thousand spiders aboard the ship, but most are likely still in suspension.  There is one female in charge and perhaps not a single fully adult male.  When the female’s eggs hatch, the females tend to eat the males.  You have to understand.  On their world everything has been eaten.  They might eventually die out and leave a barren world if people would stop landing explorer craft.”

“Okay,” Katie interrupted, catching up with the conversation.  “But why would they land here on an underpopulated island in the Caribbean?”

“To secure their foothold.  There is plenty to eat here, and not just humans.  Meanwhile, the female lays several hundred eggs at one time.  They hatch in six months, and by a year old, the babies are eating everything in sight.  It only takes three to five years before the females are mature enough to begin laying their own eggs.  By the time they invade Cuba, ten thousand might be a million, and by the time they invade Mexico, or maybe Florida or Venezuela, a million might be a billion, and they will increase exponentially.  Once they cross over to Africa, that will be the end of life on Earth other than spider life.”

“How long do you figure that will take?” Lockhart asked.

“A hundred years before Africa, maybe two hundred at most, but I don’t see the human race coming up with anything other than brute force to stop them, and frankly, if we can’t stop them here at the start, there may be no stopping them.”

“Hold up,” Katie whispered.  She was paying attention to where they were going.

They had not gone far, but they reached an open field, and the hundred natives and pirates that joined them at the last minute became agitated.  Most climbed the trees at the edge of the woods and the word spread among the men to get ready.  The Spanish and Dutch soldiers pushed to the front on either side of the natives.  They each formed two lines facing the field and waited.  The travelers, guns ready, crowded in the middle ground with the ship captains and their officers.  The natives in the trees pulled out bows and grasped their arrows in anticipation.  The sailors gathered behind the soldiers, matchlocks ready, though many held only pikes and swords of some sort.  They waited, but not for long.

Spiders came racing across the field, each one looking the size of a man.  The Spanish military captain panicked and yelled too soon.  “Fuego!”  Some of the shot fell short, but most hit something.  As long as the soldiers fired at ground level, it would have been impossible not to hit something, the way the spiders were massed together.

A few seconds later, the Dutch fired.  Spiders went down, but it hardly made a difference.  There were too many of them.  Most of the Spanish and Dutch soldiers got their matchlocks loaded for a second shot, but it was not a second volley.  The spiders came on as fast as a cavalry charge.  Lockhart admired the courage of the soldiers as many of the sailors already abandoned the fight and were racing back to the beach.  The soldiers put down their matchlocks and grabbed whatever pikes, swords, or knives they had or could find.

By far, the travelers took the biggest toll in the center.  The little ones overhead could fire a half-dozen arrows in the time it took a soldier to load and fire his matchlock once.  Decker and Katie had their military rifles set to automatic and fired hundreds of rounds in a short time.  The rest had handguns, including Nanette, who had Boston’s old Beretta. The handguns brought down plenty, but the spiders seemed endless.

Everything stopped when the spiders crashed into an invisible wall and could go no further.  Elder Stow held on through the crash, then he picked up his screen device, floated up about six feet in the air, and shouted to the travelers.  “It is a wall.  They will find a way around the edge.  I recommend retreat.”

Sukki floated up next to Elder Stow and she let her power pour from her hands.  The front row of spiders burned, but Sukki knew her strength would give out before the spiders stopped coming.

Men began to run back to the beach, and as predicted, the spiders soon found their way around the wall.  The spiders had to rush toward the center to get at the men, and some men got taken.  Elder Stow had to turn off the wall, race a couple hundred yards into the woods, and turn the wall on again.  This again stopped the spiders completely, if only temporarily.  He did this several times between the field and the beach, and most of the men made it to the shore.

What they found was hundreds of spiders crawling all over the shore.  The wounded Spaniards that Captain Esteban left there were all dead.  Some were partially eaten, but several canisters of Mustard gas had been opened.  It was suicide for the Spanish to do that, but the spiders shriveled under the gas.  Everyone avoided that end of the shoreline.

The spiders ignored the oncoming men at first.  They appeared to be scurrying about, looking for a way to cross the water and get to the Golden Hawk.  Captain Hawk had a thought.  “To the ship,” he yelled, but few heard him as the men had to fight their way to the water.

Avalon 9.4 Broadside, part 4 of 6

Elder Stow determined that the spacecraft used old Agdaline energy sources.  That did not tell him much.  So many early ships and people new to space travel used the same strictly natural sources of energy.  “If they have managed to master gravitational forces, they might have faster than light craft,” he said.  “But if that is the case, they should be on the verge of discovering new and better energy sources.  We may assume a slower than light speed craft, at which point they may have cryogenic chambers,” he turned to Nanette and Tony.  “That is sleep chambers where the body functions are slowed to almost nothing while the ship travels the great distances between the stars.”

“It may be an actual Agdaline ship,” Lockhart said, hoping Elder Stow would contradict him., but Elder Stow agreed.

“The Agdaline fly in fleets of six or twelve.  The odds are hard to calculate where they lost five ships and only one survived.  Also, their normal destination would be Egypt at the place of the lion.  They would not come here unless they were followed by whatever destroyed the other five ships, and then they would hide.  Whatever landed here has made no effort to hide.  Besides, I spoke with Lincoln earlier.  He has assured me that the Agdaline stopped coming around the year one thousand.  There are no more Agdaline fleets out there.”

“And the Agdaline don’t eat people,” Katie said.

“So, the ship may have been hijacked,” Decker suggested.

“That would be some hijacking to overcome the andasmagora.”  Katie also turned to Nanette and Tony who were not with them back in the early days.  “Dragons,” she explained.

“Sounds like spiders to me,” Decker said, and he did not bother to spell out the idea that if an Agdaline ship or fleet landed on the spider planet, a million poisonous giant spiders might easily take the ship and overcome whatever dragons might be guarding the hallways.

“I was hoping it was not an actual Agdaline ship,” Lockhart said.

“Do you have any idea how many spiders that could carry?” Lincoln said and swallowed.

“Round, but the size of a big city block,” Katie explained to the others.

Lockhart, Decker, and Elder Stow all looked eye to eye, and Elder Stow said, “This way.”  He took them straight to the cabin where their guns and equipment were stored.  They got everything back, and Lockhart sent Tony and Lincoln to ready Ghost and the horses for a quick evacuation.  The others went up on deck.

Captain Esteban saw them, rearmed, but he said nothing.  His attention stayed on the fog that covered the bay.  The ship inched forward.  Only the lateen sail on the mizzenmast was deployed, and it sat limp in the dead calm.   They had oars, twelve to a side and three men to an oar.  In this way, they moved slowly toward the shore, a young officer on one side and the boatswain on the other taking soundings every minute.  They did not want to run aground on a sand bar, or worse, scrape against some rocks that might put a hole in their ship.

“No telling how close we are to the shore,” Captain Esteban said to Decker.  “Unless you can convince the Gott-Druk to scan the area ahead.  It would be for your safety that we do not wreck this ship.”  Both Decker and the captain looked through the mist to where Elder Stow and Sukki stood by the railing.  Elder Stow did appear to have something in his hands on which he concentrated.

“Father?” Sukki whispered.  Gott-Druk were not generally good at whispering, but Sukki made the effort to learn since she was made human.

“Hold on,” Elder Stow told her before he shouted the words, “Hold on!”

The whole ship shook as they heard a terrible scraping sound all along the port side.  It thundered horrendously through the hold where the horses screamed.  Regular cracking sounds came from below as great boards of seasoned oak split and spit out nails.  The captain did not have time to instruct the oarsmen to pull back as a different sort of scraping sound came from directly below.  Forward motion pushed the bow over the area before the ship jerked and shuddered to a stop, stuck fast on a sand bar amidship.

The crew sprang to action.  Men poured into the hold.  They worked the pumps and desperately tried to seal the wall where the water leaked in.  Men lowered the gate and set the horses free.  The gate made a ramp to the sand dune where the horses easily found their way to the shore.  Lincoln and Tony, having made their fairy weave clothes as waterproof as possible, slipped out with the horses.

Two boats got lowered and crews went to check the outside of the ship.  The carrack was long and wide, so not a fast ship, though it was stable in heavy seas.  The forecastle was smaller than the aft castle and they weighted down the stern of the ship to keep the bow raised a bit, but it still plodded along slowly in normal weather. When the report came back, they learned that the ship was salvageable, but it would take a week or more of hard work before they could sail back to Santo Domingo for better repairs.  Captain Esteban invited the travelers to shuttle to shore along with his hundred soldiers who would make the camp.  Of course, they found Lincoln and Tony already there, and found they corralled the horses, at least the traveler’s horses.

“Two hours since sunrise and the fog still has not lifted,” the first mate groused as he set about shouting orders to the men on shore.

“It feels more like a cloud has come to ground,” Katie said, and the captain wondered what she might be implying.  He got his answer after another hour.

Even as the soldiers got cooking fires burning to burn a late breakfast, the fog literally lifted.  It did not burn away in the morning sun, but like a cloud, it rose into the sky, like returning to the heavens from whence it came.  In that sudden clarity of vision, they all saw and gasped at the angle at which the carrack had run aground.  It was much closer to the shore than Captain Esteban imagined and turned about forty-five degrees, so its starboard side pointed out to sea.

Men shouted at the same time.  A second ship appeared in the harbor, and the captain barely got to say, “The Dutchman,” before a broadside from that ship tore down the whole length of the carrack, effectively destroying any guns that might have returned fire.  A second broadside came almost immediately and caused whatever remained of that side of the ship to collapse. All three masts got taken down and the ship began to list toward the openings in its side.  Much more water poured in from the starboard side than leaked in around the cracked and loosened planks on the port side.  The ship would still probably not sink, being grounded on the sand bar, but that did not prevent whatever sailors could from jumping overboard and abandoning ship.  The two longboats would row out later and see if there were any survivors.

The Dutch-built ship anchored in safe water.  Evidently, the Dutch captain knew that harbor and where it was safe to sail near to shore.  Besides, his ship did not draw nearly the water of the carrack.  He could easily slide over a sandy bottom, get close enough to take on cargo and back off the sand to reach deep water.

“The Dutchman?” Katie asked.

The captain pointed at the newly arrived ship.  “The Golden Hawk.  Dunkirker design out of Hoorn.  First of the ocean-going flyboats—shallow draft ships.  Well-armed but originally designed to ply the shallow waters around Zeeland and the Flemish coast.”  Captain Esteban clicked his tongue.  “It won’t be long before every navy starts building such ships.  By comparison, our carrack, and especially the great galleons of Spain are slow lumbering beasts.  These Dunkirkers are faster and more maneuverable.  They can swing around, fire a broadside, and sail out of range before the carrack can return fire.  Even if the Carrack is prepared, the slim, low-decked, narrow design and speed make these ships hard to hit, even by the best artillerymen.”

“Frigate,” Decker named the type of ship.

“The Flying Dutchman?” Nanette asked.

Captain Esteban laughed.  “I suppose he is.  The Dutch have not yet come here to the islands.  They are too busy fighting against Spain, their rightful rulers.  Captain Hawk has papers from the English Queen Elizabeth who died a couple of years ago. He claims to be a legitimate privateer, not a pirate, but in truth, he came on behalf of the Dutch to interrupt the flow of gold and silver to the Spanish coffers.  In this way, the Dutch hoped to make the prosecution of the war against the Netherlands too difficult and expensive for Spain to continue.  He has had some success.”  Captain Esteban shrugged.  “But he is Dutch.  There is a big price on his head, and he has no safe port where he can rest.  The French, and even the English interlopers in the islands do not welcome him for fear of Spanish reprisals.”  He shrugged again.

“A Dutchman in a fast, powerful ship that is unable to make port,” Nanette mused.

“Yes,” Katie agreed.  “I imagine many Spanish sailors hate to see his sails on the horizon as those sails bring death and destruction.”

“I suppose so,” Captain Esteban said and looked at the travelers as they watched the Golden Hawk let down four longboats and began to fill them with Dutch soldiers.  The Golden Hawk raised a white flag of truce.  At least they would talk before the shooting started.  “Be prepared to move inland,” the captain told Lockhart and Decker.  Meanwhile, the captain needed to check on his men.  They now had four longboats from the carrack, and they were full of wounded men.

Avalon 9.4 Broadside, part 3 of 6

Captain Emilio Esteban proved to be a gregarious sort of man.  He had the travelers dine with him that night, offered plenty of wine, and kept the topics of conversation to pleasantries. The second night proved different.  When the travelers entered the captain’s cabin, they were met by soldiers who stripped them of their weapons and equipment.  Only Elder Stow managed to hang on to his things.  His personal screens went up and the soldiers could neither touch him nor his equipment.

“Hand over everything or we will have to hurt the others.”  The head soldier grabbed Sukki by the arm.  “This is your adopted daughter, is she not?”

“Try not to hurt him,” Elder Stow told Sukki.  She nodded before she removed the hand from her arm, grabbed the man by the shirt, and threw him down the hall to where he crashed into the stairs.  “My equipment stays on my person for now,” Elder Stow announced.  “You soldiers will just break it or push the wrong button and sink this ship by accident.”

“Fair enough,” Captain Esteban said.  He invited the travelers to his table set for twelve, where the first mate, second mate, and navigator were already waiting.  “We are entering Guanabo bay and passing the island of the same name.  I considered dropping you there.  The island is mostly barren, but the Taino people that have taken refuge there would probably help you escape so there would be no long-term benefit.”  The officers stood until the captain got seated.  “I decided you would serve better as hostages.  Of course, depending on who we run into, I might even be persuaded to temporarily return your weapons.  Let us hope the buccaneers leave us alone.”

Everyone sat with questions in their minds.  Katie was the first to frame those questions into words.  “What are you afraid of?” she asked.  “What are we headed into that a servant of the Masters might return our weapons to us?”

The ship’s stewards brought in plates of food for everyone.  The chief steward opened the wine and began to pour.  Captain Esteban sipped his to taste the wine before he spoke.  “It is not fear,” he said.  “The Masters are masters of fear, doubt, and pain.  Resistance is futile, to use the old expression.”  He looked at his plate of food but downed his glass of wine.  The chief steward filled it again while he thought.  Then he began.

“You know the north coast is full of buccaneers—French settlers who hunt and cut the trees.  They trade in leather and lumber and grow subsistence crops to make their daily bread.  But now, they are beginning to leak down into the western lands, looking for places where they can build plantations to grow tobacco, sugar cane, cotton, and other cash crops.  They are beginning to import slaves.  And as if that is not bad enough, they have given ports for French and English, privateers—men with papers from various monarchs and governments.  Some of them have begun to explore the island of Tortuga as a possible redoubt against us, should we raise the men and ships to drive them off.  For the present, though, the north is controlled by buccaneers and pirates.  It is not safe for plain farmers and families.”

“You said the south was full of cannibals,” Decker interjected.

“Natives,” the captain nodded.  “Many Taino have found refuge on the island of Guanabo, as they call it. But most remain in the south of Hispaniola, the southwest, away from the forts around Santo Domingo.  They have begun to protect their territory.  They are not slow to kill any Spanish they find in their land.  But they are not many or strong at this point, and they have been unable to fight off the Carib who have invaded the south coast.  The Carib do sometimes eat people.”

“Why don’t the Spanish fortify the center, here in the west?” Lincoln asked.  “I would think once the center is secure, turning to the north and south might be manageable.  You might even negotiate a peace with the natives and the French.”

Captain Esteban grinned.  Most of the others gave Lincoln hard looks, like he did not need to be helping the Masters.  “That was the plan,” the captain said.  “That, and fortifying Santiago against the English so we do not leave a strong enemy at our backs as we colonize the southern states of what will never be the United States.  Unfortunately, something has landed in the center.  Do you know what I mean, landed?”

“How do you know?” Lockhart asked, as Elder Stow began to fiddle with his scanner to see what he might pick up, long range.

“There are reports of whole villages, French and native, destroyed, not abandoned.  The people that have been found are said to have been drained of blood, and many eaten.  Both the pirates and the Carib are afraid to go there, and the governor of Santo Domingo is drawing up an order to insist the people move closer to the city and forts in the eastern part of the island.  It is for their own protection.”

“Depending on who we are talking about, I don’t see that anything in this age will protect the people,” Decker said, and looked at Nanette and Sukki, both of whom looked frightened, or at least uncertain.

“Yes,” the captain said with a sigh.  “Depending on what we find, I may have to return your weapons temporarily.  I know your weapons have been taken from you more than once in your journey, but I do not have time to train my men in their use and you have all the experience in both their use and in dealing with alien creatures.”

“Maybe the Flesh Eaters,” Tony suggested.  “I might say Wolv, but I am not aware of them draining the blood.”

“Maybe the New Exterminators Lady Catherine mentioned,” Nanette said.  “She did not give many details, so we don’t know what they are, exactly.”

“I hope they are not the arachnids… Panknos… the spiders,” Sukki said and shivered to think of it.

“We all hope they are not the spiders,” Katie agreed, and turned to Lincoln who had dug out the database.  He read for a second before he reported.

“Spiders,” he said.

“Let me see that.”  Captain Esteban reached out to Lincoln.  Lincoln hesitated, but two of the guards in the room stepped in his direction, so he handed it over.  The captain stared at the screen, tried touching the three buttons, and let the first mate have a look.  The man merely shrugged, so the captain handed the database back to Lincoln who adjusted the buttons to get back on the correct page.

“It is as I suspected,” the captain said with another big sigh.  “All we can see is fuzz and wavey lines.”

“The hedge of the gods,” Katie said.  “It prevents ears from hearing, or in this case, eyes from reading about the future.”

“Yes.”  The captain seemed to understand.  “But I have no such hedge.  There is nothing to prevent me from speaking about the future.  Sadly, hardly anyone understands what I am talking about.  When I mentioned the film Gone with the Wind, only Don Fernando smiled and said, “But now, there will be no Civil War, and the film will be in Spanish since we will hold on to California as well as Texas.”  Captain Esteban shrugged like it was a done deal.

“The Kairos might have something to say about that,” Elder Stow interjected.

“Ah, yes.  The other reason you are my prisoners.  You will lead me to the Kairos, and I will get to kill many birds with one stone, as the saying goes.”

Katie frowned.  “Assuming you don’t get eaten by whatever landed on Hispaniola.”

“Of course,” Captain Esteban said, and smiled.  “More wine?”



The ship comes to land not far from where the aliens have landed, most likely the giant alien spiders. Until Monday, Happy Reading.


Avalon 9.4 Broadside, part 2 of 6

Captain Emilio Esteban did not appear concerned about the travelers being fugitives.  As long as he got paid, he did not seem to be concerned about anything.  His ship El Diablo, a Spanish carrack of twenty-six guns, carried a crew of nearly four hundred sailors and mercenary soldiers with a dozen horses of their own.  They had enough food and feed to sail a month before they had to head for a port to resupply.  A quick trip from Santo Domingo to what would one day be Port-au-Prince would be easy money.  The captain said he was headed for Havana and dropping eight people on the west side of Hispaniola hardly amounted to a detour.

“Convenient to find a ship already stocked and ready to sail,” Decker mused and watched the morning crew scurry about the deck.

“Sometimes things work out,” Nanette responded.  “Santo Domingo is a main Spanish port here in the Caribbean.  It probably gets lots of traffic.”

Decker was not convinced.  Katie and Tony both had questions as well.  Katie talked to Lockhart about it.

“These are the days right before the English and French begin to build settlements on Tortuga.  The French have already settled the northern coast of Hispaniola and are moving into what will one day become Haiti.  The Spanish drive out the settlers three or four times between 1630 and 1650, but they keep coming back.  The French especially build plantations on Haiti and import more African slaves than they can handle.  The slaves eventually revolt, and well, that is all in the future.  Right now, it is about 1605.”

Lockhart asked.  “So, what is the difference between a pirate and a privateer?”

“The Spanish call them Buccaneers—the French on the north coast,” Katie answered, and looked at the captain and his officers on the deck above.  “A privateer is an independent contractor, usually having papers and supplies from a monarch, like the English, French, or Dutch parliament.  They are tasked with harassing Spanish shipping and taking the gold and silver, or cash crops like sugar cane or tobacco.  Some goes to the monarch.  The privateer gets to keep some.  It depends on the contract, which is carefully not spelled out.  They often sail under the country flag, and if they get caught, they are sometimes treated like enemy combatants, like prisoners of war, and held for ransom or exchange.  Of course, the country can always deny and say the captain was acting on his own and that was not according to the contract.  Then they are treated like pirates and usually get hung.  Pirates are completely independent ships that don’t work for anyone but themselves.”

“So, what is the difference?”

“On a practical level, not much.”

“So, do you think Captain Esteban is a pirate or privateer?”

Katie shook her head, but on further thought, she nodded. “Like a Spanish privateer paid to go after pirates, maybe.  Like an anti-pirate or pirate hunter, like a bounty hunter, maybe.”

Tony talked with Lincoln, Sukki, and Elder Stow.  They sat on some boxes along the starboard rail and tried to keep out of the way.  “Captain Esteban seems pretty anxious to take us where we need to go.  My guess is if the governor in Santo Domingo thinks we are pirates or connected to the pirates, Captain Esteban hopes we will lead him to the pirates.”

“The western coast of Hispaniola is mostly populated with Frenchmen,” Lincoln reported, holding up the database.  “Buccaneers, hunters and trapper mostly, and some lumber men.  Not much in the way of settlements yet.  There are some small villages, though mostly on the north coast.”

“You got the horses loaded and we got out of jail fairly easily,” Tony said.

“We were invisible,” Elder Stow said as if that explained it all.  He shifted Lincoln’s moneybag which he held in his lap.  He had a personal screen, turned on at the moment, which protected his belt full of devices.  While it could not be expanded to cover other people, like his officer’s device, he could expand it enough to cover the moneybag.  No pirate could steal their money, or even touch the bag.  “Invisible,” Elder Stow repeated.

“But no alarm got sounded when the horses vanished,” Tony countered that thought.

“It did take us a couple of hours to load the horses,” Sukki agreed.  “I was worried that whole time about what they might be doing to you.”

“We were fine,” Tony said.  “They ignored us.  But then we vanished and walked all the way across town, and no one sounded the alarm. We were not ignored that much.”

“I see what you mean,” Elder Stow admitted.  “It does appear as if they let us go.”

Up above, Decker asked and was granted permission to step on the quarterdeck.  Nanette followed and let Decker make his suggestion.

“Now that we are away from the city, you can drop us anywhere along the southern coast here.  We can go back to minding our own business, and you can get on to Cuba.  Just a thought.”

Captain Esteban smiled as he spoke.  “Clearly, you are new to this island.  I would guess the ship that brought you from Europe dumped you on the east coast before heading down into the Lesser Antilles.  You came into town like you did not expect to be noticed, two Africans riding on horses.  The others may claim to be German and Swedish, with one Italian, though he is not a priest.”  The captain shrugged.  “Such are not wanted here, either.”

“All the more reason to leave you to your business,” Decker suggested.

The captain shook his head.  “You see the coast.  It is very rough country for horses.  You would struggle to get over the hills.  Also, most of the native population has been wiped out, mostly by diseases and such, but the survivors have banded together along this shore.  They hate Europeans.  They will kill you on sight.  Then also, many Caribs have come up from the lesser islands where they have been driven out.  They will not only kill you; they will eat you.  And I haven’t even mentioned the Buccaneers.  Many French have begun to build settlements in the west, though mostly in the north to avoid the natives.  They are armed camps and hidden, and they don’t like strangers.”

“You make the whole island sound hostile,” Nanette said.

Captain Esteban looked at her and appreciated what he saw.  “The governor is planning to tell the Spanish population to move closer to Santo Domingo for their own protection.  He imagines the French and natives will wipe each other out and spare Spain the trouble.  I have argued against it.  He may lose the island, or at least the western part of it.  Still, that is a small matter.  Don Fernando Delrio in Havana has plans to colonize the whole north coast from Florida to Louisiana and up to the river they call Ohio.  The land is well suited to tobacco and other cash crops if we can import enough slaves to work the land.  I understand there is gold along Sugar Creek and the Cabarrus area in the Carolinas.  We shall see.”

“Looks like you have it all figured out,” Decker said.

“Yes.”  The captain smiled.  “And I will take you safely to your French friends.  I may even give them the west side of the island.  That way, the resources that are being wasted in Hispaniola may be diverted to the colonization project in the north.”  With that, he waved them off, and Decker was able to report what he learned to the others.

Lockhart said, “That will kill the future United States.”

Katie went a step further.  “There might not be a United States.”

The following day, the travelers acted on their suspicions, that maybe Captain Esteban was a servant of the Masters, or at least worked for them.  Lincoln spent the day trying to dig out the relevant information from the database.  Decker and Katie, both marines, spent the day watching the captain and his officers on the quarterdeck to see if anything seemed off in their behavior and conversation.  Lockhart, the former police officer, with Nanette’s help, searched as much of the ship as they were allowed, looking for clues.  They watched the crew but figured the sailors and soldiers aboard ship were pawns just there to follow orders.  Elder Stow kept his eyes on his scanner, marking their progress as they sailed along the coast of Hispaniola, and kept his eyes open for sudden energy signals that might pop up aboard ship or on the coast if the captain was leading them somewhere.  That left Tony and Sukki to watch over their horses, Ghost, and their equipment down in the hold.

Mid-afternoon, Tony came up from tending Ghost.  He had a question.  Sukki, Elder Stow, Lockhart, and Katie were all present at the moment.  He turned primarily to Katie.  “You know, my grasp of historical details ended with the fall of the Roman Empire.  I followed the east and Byzantines until they get overrun by the Turks, so I may be off base here.”

Katie smiled.  “I’ve been grasping at straws myself since Prudenza and the days of the plague.  My area is the ancient and medieval world.  I’m not studied in the modern, or pre-modern, or gunpowder age, or whatever you called it back in 1905.”

“Understood,” Tony said and returned the smile before he looked down and looked serious.

“What is your question?” Lockhart asked.

“Well…” Tony framed his thoughts.  “Several cannon balls, or what I thought were cannon balls got loose and some soldiers came to secure them.  I was tending Ghost.  I don’t think they knew I was there.  Anyway, the head man said be careful with those canisters.  There is enough gas in just one of them to kill everyone aboard the ship.  I did not know the Spanish in this age had poison gas filled canisters they could fire from their cannons.”

“They don’t,” Katie said.

“What kind of gas?” Sukki wondered out loud and turned to Elder Stow.  They all looked at the Gott-Druk.  He appeared to know something.

“Mustard gas,” he said without hesitation.  “I picked up the chemical signatures when I scanned the entire ship this morning.  I did not say anything because the chemicals might be used for other things.  I did not know.  But gas canisters makes sense of the data.”

“Mustard gas,” Katie repeated.  “That is strictly nineteenth century and did not get used until the first World War, as far as I know.  Sorry Tony.”  Tony waved off her concern while Lockhart summed things up.

“If the captain is not a servant of the Masters, he is certainly working for them.  We need to lay low until we reach our destination.  Meanwhile, maybe we can work on ways to make the compound inert.  I hope we don’t have to throw it all overboard.”

Avalon 9.4 Broadside, part 1 of 6

After 1562 A.D. The Caribbean

Kairos lifetime 115: Peter van Dyke: Captain Hawk

Recording …

Elder Stow saw that the horses were cared for, including his own horse, Mudd.  He hated to disturb them, but they had no choice.  Only he and Sukki escaped, invisible.  They would have to break the others out of jail as soon as they got the horses loaded.

He looked at his adopted daughter, Sukki.  She tied the horses to the line in order to bring them all at once to the ship.  Lockhart’s big horse, and Katie’s led the string, followed by Lincoln’s horse and Sukki’s horse, Cocoa, before Mudd.  Elder Stow paused to grin.  The Kairos, Hans, broke into his precious stores of cocoa come all the way from the New World.  He made hot chocolate for everyone.  Sukki, who never tasted chocolate before, said it was better than she even imagined.  Elder Stow found it watery and bitter.  It would take some serious experimentation before the chocolate got really good.

“Father?” Sukki got his attention.  He waved her off and went to sit on a bale of hay.

“Keep working.  I’m fine.”  He watched her tie the last of the horses.  Decker’s big horse followed Mudd, then Nanette’s horse and Tony’s horse.  Ghost, the mule came last, but over the last several time zones, the mule had gotten used to following Tony’s horse.  Elder Stow marveled at how helpful and faithful these animals were.  Their journey through time would have been nearly impossible without them.  He sighed.  He had to admit these Homo Sapiens were no longer the primitive, ignorant apes his people still called them.  They were clever in their way.

Elder Stow thought about the Gott-Druk planet, his home.  It was a good world, but still too many of his people could not see that.  All they saw was Earth, and they counted Earth as their real home.  Over more than fourteen thousand years, various groups attempted to retake the Earth and remove or enslave the homo sapiens that now covered the world.  Sukki, herself, was the sole survivor of the very first expedition.  It had no chance for success. The people on that Agdaline ship were still cave men in their level of technological progress.  Sukki was raised a cave woman, as Lincoln called her at first.  She had come a long way.  She learned a lot over their travels.  But then she wanted to fit in better with her fellow travelers.  The gods remade her into a Homo Sapiens as one of their last acts before the dissolution of the gods.  Sukki remained his adopted daughter, but her being human and no longer Neanderthal brought questions to his mind.

‘Sukki,” he called.  Sukki paused after tying Tony’s horse to the line and turned her face to him to show she was listening.  Ghost waited patiently for his turn.  “Sukki,” he repeated.  “We are only about a half-dozen time zones away from home.  I have been wondering if you will be going with me to the Gott-Druk world, or if you will be staying with the humans.”

Sukki looked pained.  “I don’t know,” she said, not willing to give a straight answer.  “I am not sure I would fit in the home world.  Even with the gift of Athena I don’t understand half of the technology you carry around apart from theory—things that you call mere toys.  I’m learning all of this human history and human culture.  I’m having a hard enough time trying to understand what the twenty-first century will be like.  I don’t know.”

Elder Stow nodded and waved her off.  “Something to think about,” he said.  She would not say it, but she was becoming more human than Neanderthal.  Adopting her all those time zones ago was a very Gott-Druk thing to do.  He had no doubt it kept her alive and mentally stable, having a family connection with the group.  His Gott-Druk people framed everything in terms of family.  But now, she had a mother and father in Katie and Lockhart.  He, himself, often referred to them as the mother and father of the time traveling family.  She no longer needed him to be her father figure.

“Ready,” Sukki said, and Elder Stow got busy.  He was supposed to be tuning discs to the invisible spectrum.  He only had six done.  He needed three more.

“Almost,” he said.  He got to work while she checked the door to the stables to be sure no people were coming to disturb them.

Elder Stow thought about how much further they needed to go to get back to the twentieth century.  Only a few time zones.  He certainly had more than enough experience.  He could abandon the human travelers to their fate and should easily make it back to his time and his people.  He still had his scanner tuned to the peculiar time distortion of the time gates.  He could find them easily enough and maybe get back to his proper time faster on his own.  Maybe these hated Homo Sapiens who stole the Earth, the planet of his Gott-Druk origin, deserved to be imprisoned… But no.  The travelers had become like family for him, too.  He would never abandon them.

“Ready,” he said, and he attached a disc to the mule and each of the horses in turn until they all went invisible.  “Take the lead,” he told Sukki, and they all walked invisible out of the stables and through the early morning streets to the ship.  The sun would be up soon enough, and so would the tide they would need to take them out of the bay.  Once loaded, Elder Stow could retrieve his discs and fetch the others from their jail cell.  He imagined that being invisible might prevent their escape being noticed until after they were well away aboard the ship.

Loading the horses was not hard.  He collected the discs, so the horse became visible again and then the crew helped.  Threatening the captain so he did not sail off with free horses did not take long.  Soon, Elder Stow and Sukki hurried across town to set the prisoners free.  Elder Stow would not abandon the others, no matter how tempting it might be to just get home.

They had indeed become like his family.  Elder Stow had to admit it, and they were correct to some extent.  They were all humans—genus homo—Homo Sapiens and Homo Neanderthalensis.  They were not that different, though on a personal level, Elder Stow wondered if all this time in close contact humanized him.  Having gone through so much of human history, he now understood that the Homo Sapiens belonged on the earth.  He had also come to realize his Gott-Druk home world was actually a very good world.  When he got home, he would talk against the extremists that wanted to retake Earth for a home.  He did not imagine he would become a member of the other side—a friend of the humans.  He expected he would settle down with the vast majority of Gott-Druk for whom it was no longer an issue.


Lockhart, the former policeman, sat in his jail cell trying to figure out how he could pick the skeleton lock in the door.  He needed something big enough and metal-like strong. He looked at Decker, but Decker shook his head.

“I am combat trained.  I know a few tricks, but I am not James Bond,” he said.

In the cell next door, Lincoln pulled out the database and sat quietly to read.  Tony paced with his eyes on their jailer.  The fat Spaniard sat at his desk and looked ready for a nap.  Tony said one thing.  “Are you at least going to feed us?”  The jailer shrugged.

In the third cell, Katie and Nanette waited patiently and talked quietly.

“I am not going to be sold as a slave,” Nanette said with a slight growl.  “My grandmother was emancipated by Mister Lincoln, and I am not going back there.”

“Not going to happen,” Katie agreed.  “We will probably be hung as pirates long before that thought occurs to them.  Besides, Elder Stow and Sukki are out there.  After they secure the horses, they will come for us.”

The women looked at each other, and Nanette said the thing they both felt concerned about.  “Elder Stow checked with Lincoln.  He knows after this zone, there are only five more between here and home.  He can still track the time gates on his equipment.  I think he may abandon us.”

“No,” Katie said.  “We are family, such as we are.  Family is most important to the Gott-Druk.  He will come for us.  Sukki will make sure of that.”

“He is a different species,” Nanette said.  “No telling what he thinks, or how he thinks.  He might not see it as abandoning us so much as returning to his real family.”

Katie shook her head.  “It seemed that way at first, and I felt that way for a long time after, but he has proved himself.  Besides, I have been convinced that he is essentially human.  There are serious cultural differences and maybe some instinctive differences, but he is mostly human.  I trust him, and more importantly, the Kairos trusts him.  If I have learned one thing on this journey, it is to trust the Kairos.”

“Very well said.”  Katie and Nanette were startled to hear Elder Stow’s voice, though of course they could not see him.  The door to the hall was open, so they figured he came in while they were talking.  No telling how much he heard.

“Rodrigo?” the man at the desk looked toward the door and wondered who was talking.  The man started to rise before he fell back into the chair and wiggled like a man being electrocuted.  He appeared to go unconscious, and they all heard Sukki.

“He isn’t dead.  Please don’t be dead.”

“Stand away from the door,” Elder Stow said.  They did, and one at a time, he melted all three locks.  The doors swung open.  “Here.”  he handed each of the travelers a disc still tuned to the invisible spectrum.  As soon as they went invisible, they saw Elder Stow and Sukki.  She tied the jailer to the chair and gagged him.  The jailer moaned a little as everyone retrieved their guns and knives from the table.  Then they hurried across town to the docks and managed to slip out into the bay, going out with the tide.

Avalon 9.3 Bewitches, part 6 of 6

Two university students came rushing into the inn, yelling.  “An army is gathering in the University Square.”  The students felt sure they were going to attack the school, and maybe the church where Martin Luther posted his Ninety-five Theses.  “Beer,” they demanded.

The inn, on one side of the broad street that came down from the square, sat beside the University Commons.  It was a favorite pub for both students and professors alike.  Pater got them all rooms at the inn and rested the horses and mule out in the corral behind the inn.  The wagon sat in the barn next door which sat beside a couple of small shops on the square itself.  The broad street between the University Square and the University Commons was not a long street.  A church with a couple of small out buildings and an equally small cemetery sat across the street from the inn and barn.

Hans checked the corral behind the inn when he told Heidi to keep Helga inside.  He left Kurt at the inn to guard the women and make sure Helga stayed safe.  It was not the O K Corral, thank goodness, he thought, as he hurried down the back alley.  He saw soldiers, or more probably, mercenaries coming in from both sides of the town.  It looked like one group came from the east gate and the other from the west gate.  They gathered in the square, and Hans, and Pater who came up behind him, had no doubt who they were looking for.

Alderman climbed up to the roof of the barn where he could look over the shops and get a clear view of the square.  He looked for Mister Muller.  They found Mister Muller’s wagon full of sacks of coarse ground, ergot-laced rye flour in the barn, but had not yet found the man.  Hans figured Mister Muller planned to feed the hallucinogenic flour to the university students and faculty in order to make Martin Luther’s ideas look like the cause of all that insanity and death.  It might kill the reformation.  Hans decided if Mister Muller did not work for the Masters, he was at least doing their job.

“There’s two witches,” Bushwacker said as he came up beside Hans and Pater. “Sergeant Adolph, Ralph, and Herman are watching from the barn door, just shy of the shops on the square.”

“What do you mean, two witches?” Pater asked.  Bushwacker merely pointed.  Two women rose about twenty feet above the men and horses.  They both sat on brooms, cliché though that was, and they appeared to know each other.  Pater and Hans both recognized Ursula.

“The one says she is following the Kairos. The other says she is following the travelers from Avalon,” Bushwacker reported, and promptly cleaned his ears with his fingers, like he got some dirt in there.  Hans and Pater watched the witches laugh, like it was all so funny.  Hans imagined it was more like a cackle.

Hans already called to the armor of the Kairos, so he stood there ready to fight, even if he was not much good with the weapons at his back.  He suddenly put his hand to his head when he remembered who the travelers from Avalon were.  Fortunately, the sudden influx of information passed quickly, and he spoke.  “I hope Lockhart is not caught unaware.”  Then he had to think.

Hans realized the witches, servants of the Masters, were demon infested.  He also knew they were only there to kill him and the travelers.  In his case, it would not ultimately matter.  He would simply be reborn, though the Masters might get fifteen or more years of freedom to do whatever evil plan they had in mind while he grew from a baby. Squashing the reformation might be a big one the demon-Masters might like to do.  As for the travelers… he imagined they would interfere with more events in the future.  Eliminating them would prevent their interference.

But what can I do about these demonized witches? he thought.  He had no magic to fight them, and his few men would not stand a chance against forty or more hardened mercenaries.

“Burn them at the stake,” he heard clear as a bell.  He was not sure which lifetime talked to him.  Probably not the Storyteller, peace lover as he was.  Probably not the Captain, or Diogenes, or Martok who never had to deal with anything like that, and probably could not imagine it.

“Lord?” Bushwacker got Hans’ attention.  He and Pater were staring at him rather than the events in the square.

“This is beyond my ability,” he confessed.  “I need help.”  He did not explain.


The travelers made a big swing around through the town when they saw the witch Inga and her men got ahead of them.  They arrived at the church across the street from the inn when the soldiers began to gather in the University Square.  After tying off their horses, they snuck up through the cemetery and hid behind the grave markers.  They all saw the two witches fly up to get above the crowd of soldiers.

Decker spotted Blondy.  He appeared to be leading one side of the soldiers, and Big Ugly was right there with him.  “Major,” Decker called Katie.  He had her get Big Ugly in the scope of her rifle while he kept his rifle pointed at Blondy.  They waited, wanting to give Elder Stow as much time as possible to get his screens ready to deploy.  They had to act sooner than planned.

A man stood on the ground beneath the witches and shouted up to them to make himself heard.  An arrow came from the roof of the barn across the street.  A perfect shot, it killed the man on the ground.  Decker did not hesitate.

“Now,” he said.  Katie killed Big Ugly with one shot.  The man made a big target.  Decker had to fire twice before Blondy went down.

“I’m not ready,” Elder Stow shouted.  Sukki stood right there and felt his distress.  The witches both turned their heads toward the barn and then the cemetery.  Sukki let her power out of both hands.  She hoped to fry the witches without setting the city on fire.  The witches did not burn.  Something prevented Suki’s power from reaching them.  Everyone looked surprised, especially Sukki.

Nameless, son of Frya of the Vanir and Tyr of Aesgard.  The Nameless god, grandson of Odin the Alfader, and also the Kairos appeared beside the witches.  All the soldiers in the square froze in place. The witches appeared powerless in the face of the god.  Nameless did something that made the witches scream, and the witches fell to the cobblestones.

Thirty men came up the broad street from the University.  They looked prepared for a fight.  At the same time, people came from all the side streets around the square, again, mostly men being the watch and city guards.  They disarmed the mercenaries who came stiffly out of their frozen state.  They grabbed the two women who were seen by all flying over the heads of everyone.  Those witches got securely tied and gagged and hauled off to the nearest jail cell.

Nameless appeared by the travelers.  He smiled for them, and they remembered him from the past.  Then Nameless returned to the past and Hans appeared in his place.  “Lockhart, good timing for once,” he said, before he opened his arms for a hug.  “Sukki.”  Sukki began to understand why Boston loved her hugs so much.

Pater and Bushwacker came through the barn from the back, and Alderman came down from the roof.  Sergeant Adolph, Ralph, and Herman all got introduced and Alderman reported on the ergot.

“I got Mister Muller with an arrow, but I noticed his wagon and sacks of rye flour are missing from the barn.”

“Nameless thought it best to remove it to prevent it being baked into bread.”

“Ergot,” Alderman said to explain.  Katie and Tony both recognized the word.

“Yes,” Hans said.  “Mister Muller had in mind to poison the university students and faculty and blame Martin Luther and his teachings.  He wanted to accuse Luther of witchcraft and demonizing the people.  My guess is the Masters would rather not have a reformation.”

“But what will happen to the real witches?” Nanette asked, and Sukki stood with her.

“Inga and Ursula,” Hans said.  “Nameless took away their magic.  They are just ordinary girls now, but still demon possessed.  No one can help them unless they want to be free, and that is in God’s hands.  My guess is they will be tried and burned at the stake, or hung, or beheaded.  These are the years for that sort of thing, you know.  Nanette and Sukki, you need to be careful right now on what power you show in public. You don’t want to be arrested and tried for witchery.”

“It’s okay,” Nanette said.  “Lincoln has assured me in the next time zone my magic will go away, and I won’t get it back until 1875, five zones from here.”

“Good,” Hans said.  “Come and meet the rest of the crew.”

They all walked across the street and up the steps of the inn.  They did not get in the door because a young woman came out the door, wrapped herself around Hans just as tight as she could hold him, and she went for his lips.  People paused and smiled before Pater took the lead.

“Heidi,” he named the woman, and waved everyone into the inn.  “Let’s see how Kurt and Helga are making out.”

“I am sure they are,” Alderman said with a grin for the travelers who knew exactly what he meant.



The travelers travel to the Caribbean in season 9, episode 4 (9.4) Broadside where they find Captain Hawk, the Flying Dutchman, and some nasty visitors from the stars. Until then, Happy Reading.


Avalon 9.3 Bewitches, part 5 of 6

After lunch on the same day that Hans and company started off down the road to Augsburg, the travelers stopped on the river road outside the city gate to Ulm.  Katie had a bad feeling about the city.  Nanette said she smelled Ingrid the witch, almost sounding like a dwarf.  Decker supported her, though he did not exactly encourage the others.

“The witch may have taken a boat downriver and passed us in the night.”

Lincoln took it a step further.  “Maybe the witch met up with Blondy and Big Ugly.  Maybe they have a whole troop of soldiers just inside the gate waiting for us.”

“Elder Stow,” Lockhart called the man.  “Where is the nearest city gate off this road?”

Elder Stow got out his scanner.  “There is a gate away from the river.  A road goes from there off to the northwest, maybe to Stuttgart.”

“We will take it,” Lockhart said.  “Better safe than sorry,” he added for Katie, who nodded in agreement with that idea.

“We will have to cross some farm fields,” Elder Stow pointed out.  “I will try to keep us to the local farm roads.”

“Can’t we go around the city and avoid the trouble altogether?” Nanette asked.

“Wait,” Sukki interrupted.  She had her amulet out and stared at it while she spoke.  “It looks like the Kairos left the river.  He must be headed toward Awkward-burg.”

“Augsburg,” Lincoln corrected.  “You sound like Boston.”  That made Sukki smile.

“We need to find a bridge,” Katie said.  “Augsburg is south, on the other side of the river.”

Lockhart hardly had to think about it.  “Unexpected gate.  Straight to the nearest bridge, and then find the road to Augsburg.  Hopefully we will escape in an unexpected direction.  With luck, we will find the Kairos before they find us.”

Everyone agreed, but first thing they stopped where a farmer refused to let them cross his land.  They had to go around, only to run into another farmer who refused to let them through.  Fortunately, they could pay for passage.  They also paid the third farmer.  Then, somehow, word went out ahead of them and every farmer in Ulm came out demanding money, or so it seemed.

“This way,” Elder Stow said, and he led them to a farm road that appeared to go between two properties.  They almost got to the northwest road before a man stepped out in front of them.

“You are traveling on my road,” he said.  “You have to pay the toll.”  He held up a box and rattled it to show that there were coins inside.

Nanette grabbed her wand, pulled the box from the man’s hand, and floated it up about ten feet in the air.  Lockhart pulled out his shotgun and blasted the box to pieces.  Little metal shards, not coins, rained down on the man.

The man just stared until Decker came up.  He rode beside Nanette.  “Next person that tries to extort money will get shot,” he said to the man.

Lincoln rode in the back beside Tony and the mule.  He tossed the man an old Roman silver coin as he spoke.  “This should cover the toll and get you a new box.”

It took an hour to reach the road to Stuttgart, and they arrived about an hour from the city gate.  By the time they arrived at the gate, they found a new problem.

“Gate tax,” The soldier said.  “It is based on the estimated value of the goods you are bringing into the city.”  The man tried to sound firm about that, but other people were going in and out of the gate without being stopped, much less paying a tax.

“We are not bringing any goods into the city,” Lockhart said. “We are just pilgrims passing through.”

“We would appreciate you giving us directions to the bridge,” Katie said.

“And the road to Augsburg,” Lincoln shouted up from the rear.  He quieted when Tony, Nanette, and Decker all gave him hard looks.  “What?” he defended himself.  “He is just a gate guard.”

“And city guards never talk,” Tony said, with a good bit of sarcasm.

“Lincoln,” Lockhart called him up front.  His voice did not sound kind.  Lincoln pulled a few coins from his vest pocket.  He put a couple in the outstretched hand of the soldier.  The soldier wiggled his fingers like he wanted more, but Lincoln objected.

“I need the rest to pay for the river crossing.”

The man smiled and said, “My brother guards the river bridge.”  He looked out and counted.  “You have nine horses to mess up our beautiful streets.”  He wiggled his fingers again.

“Eight horses and a mule,” Lincoln corrected the man.

“Oh.  Mules cost double.”  He wiggled his fingers again as Katie and Lockhart frowned.  Lincoln handed over a couple more coins and then shrugged as if to say that was all he had.  The soldier still hesitated a moment before he closed his fist around the coins and Katie began to push through the gate.  Lockhart, Sukki, Elder Stow and the rest followed.  They did not give the gate guards a chance to block their way.

Once in the city, the travelers hurried to cross over to the river.  They only stopped briefly in a market area to pick up some summer fruit and vegetables to go with whatever animal they could buy or shoot down the road, assuming they would camp in the night.  They got to the bridge without a problem, except the bridge appeared to be a problem.

Ulm only had the one bridge across the Danube, though it looked like they started building a second bridge on the other end of the city.  Unfortunately, the bridge swarmed with soldiers.  The travelers had no doubt who the soldiers were waiting for.

“Boats,” Katie said.  “It will cost more, but a ferry can work as well as a bridge.”

It took a while to find a boatman who had his own little dock and did not use the main city river docks.  Those river docks were also swarming with soldiers, as were all the gates.  Katie wondered what Ingrid the witch told the city council to get them to turn out the troops.

Lincoln made a fist sized bag full of every copper coin they picked up thus far in their trip through southeastern France and the Black Forest.  They offered it to the man as they were invited inside the big house.

“Here is the deal.  Your boat is big enough to carry us one at a time over the river.  That will probably take all night.  We have fruit and vegetables to eat this evening, and your wife is welcome to keep whatever remains when we leave.  We also have this bag of coins which is payment for passage.  It is probably a year’s wages or more.  There is one condition.  You tell no one.  Say nothing to anyone, not even family and good friends until after we leave.”

The man looked them over, carefully.  “I am guessing you are the people who killed Father Martin Luther.  I see the two Africans.”

“Are you Lutheran or Catholic?”  Lockhart asked.

“Lutherite?” the man thought before he nodded.  “Lutheran.”

“Martin Luther is alive,” Katie said.  “He just went into hiding.  I don’t blame him.”

“I don’t blame him either,” the man said, confidentially.  “Anyway, I’m Jewish.  This is why we had to build our own dock here, separate from the city docks.  We may be able to help you.  Come.  Let me show you.”

“Wait,” an old woman shouted from the street. A young woman, like a granddaughter helped the old one walk.  “Let me get a look at them.”  She looked at the horses in the street that Decker and Tony guarded.  Then she examined the other six faces closely.  “You have not aged a day,” she said.  “I was sixteen and sat with my father when we met you, after we escaped from the Portuguese Inquisition.  You were a great encouragement to us.  After a long journey, my father brought us here.”  She paused and looked again at Katie.

“I remember you,” Sukki said.

The old woman smiled for her.  “But you have not aged, and I have gotten old over all those years.  Only now, I understand.  The stories you told about Solomon and the Maccabees were real stories you lived, not just invented to entertain us.”

“They were,” Katie admitted.

The old woman grabbed her granddaughter and yelled at the man.  “Jacob.  You will give these travelers safe passage over the river and will not betray them no matter how much money the city offers.”  She started back up the street while the man mumbled.

“Yes, mother.”

“God bless you,” Nanette said to the woman.

“Oh, I hope so,” the woman responded.

Avalon 9.3 Bewitches, part 4 of 6

Two days later, Hans and his crew found a hostel just outside Ingolstadt at the head of the road to Augsburg.  He planned to travel upriver and let the river guide them to well past Ulm, where he hoped to pick up a road to Konstanz on the lake.  He imagined there would be an easy road from Konstanz to Zurich, but now he felt sure they were being followed.  Once the witch Ursula got over her fright and gathered enough men at arms to feel safe, and that might be a lot, he expected her to come after them.  So now, he considered the map he once saw.  They could go to Augsburg, to Memmingen, and on the salt road to Lindau.  From there, they need only go around the lake to St. Galen and on to Zurich.

Hans watched Bushwacker and the soldiers move the wagon into the barn.  “Your hound and cat will have to stay in the barn with the other animals,” the man said.  “No animals in the house.  The lady is strict about that.”

“Pater?” Hans called from the porch steps.  Pater came out with Bushwacker and Kurt.  He came close to speak to Hans, but he did not whisper because there did not appear to be anyone around.

“You know I don’t like leaving the money in the wagon but bringing it into the common room would be worse.  You might as well put a sign on the chest saying here is all my money.  Help yourself.”

Kurt snickered, but when Hans looked at him, he said, “Oh.  Yes.  The others will be along in a minute.”

Hans nodded.  “Alderman has already taken the women inside.  Let’s see if the lady of the house has something worth eating.”  Hans looked back once and saw Sergeant Adolph and Ralph close the barn door.  No telling where Herman had got to.

“There is only an old rooster in the barn, up in the rafters,” Bushwacker said.  “I hope he is pouting because they cooked all the chickens.  I’m starved.”

As Hans and his crew went inside, a man stepped from the side of the porch where no one saw him.  His eyes went wide, no doubt thinking about all that money.

Inside, Hans got stopped by Alderman.  “Don’t eat the bread,” the elf said.  “The rye is full of Ergot, a fungus that infects rye seeds.  In humans it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, gangrene, and death.  Mostly, it affects the mind.  Paranoia, delirium, and seeing things like strange and terrible visions.”

“What about Bushwacker?” Pater pointed.  Somehow, the dwarf got ahead of them.  He already sat at the table and had a plate full of rye and pumpernickel bread, and chicken to make sandwiches.

Alderman laughed.  “It won’t hurt him.  He is a dwarf.  I think there is nothing a dwarf will not eat.  In fact, as I understand it, half of a dwarf’s life is spent eating and the other half is spent sleeping.”  He laughed and the others laughed a little with him, but Bushwacker heard and turned with his mean face toward the group.

“I’m insulted.  We work hard when there is work to do.” he said.  He looked at Hans and decided not to follow through with his thoughts.   Then, after a moment, his expression changed to a smile.  “Lor…” he continued.  “But that would be a good life.”

Everyone genuinely laughed, and then stayed away from the bread, even when Mister Muller, the house steward said the lady of the house would be disappointed.  “We have had some cold and wet years which is good for the grain.  This last year, July was very wet, and the autumn got an early frost.  There were plenty of big, black grains in the bread.  I heard it makes the best bread.”

“The Ergot,” Alderman said.  “The fungus makes the grain enlarged and turns it black.”

“No thank you,” Heidi interjected.  “Bread is bad for the waistline.”  She kept Helga away from it.

“The ones who came before you and ate earlier had plenty of the good bread of the house.  The lady of the house will be disappointed if you don’t have some.”

“Thank you,” Hans said.  “But we are all on a restricted diet, out of deference to the ladies.”

The steward harumphed and left the room since he failed to entice them with the bread.  Alderman whispered a thought.  “I think he knows what is in the bread.”  Hans nodded.  He thought that as well but wondered why the man wanted to poison his guests.

An hour later, after it got good and dark, Misters Wagner, Schulz, and Becker met outside.  “Money,” Mister Wagner said.  He pointed to the barn and promptly threw up.

“Becker,” Mister Schulz said.  “You have to… Probably a bag… You.”

“I can’t,” Becker said.  “It is dark and scary, and the moon looks green, like a strange face staring down at me.  By myself?”

Mister Schulz began to shake, but Mister Wagner finished vomiting for the moment.  “You have to do it,” Mister Wagner said, moaned, and held his stomach.  Becker shook his head and began to sweat.  “You can do it.”

Becker was afraid of the dark, but his friends appeared to be ogres in disguise.  He began to worry that they might eat him if he did not do what they said.

“You can… You… Money,” Mister Schulz said, and the two men pushed Becker to the barn door.  Then Mister Schulz began to shake and fell to the ground.  Mister Wagner handed Becker a candle stub before he ran to the outhouse.

Mister Becker wanted nothing to do with the darkness, but the others could not do it and he tried to focus on the money.  He went in.  The door squeaked.  He saw the cat’s eyes like glowing embers in the dark.  He imagined a fireplace and stuck out his candle to light it in the embers.  The cat screeched and scratched Becker across the face.  The dog woke up and bit the man in the leg.  The mule kicked the man in the butt, so he stumbled across the room and banged into the wall.  And the rooster in the rafters woke and made a horrible racket.

Becker found the door and found Schulz and Wagner outside.  He shouted.  “There is a witch.  She scratched me with her claws.” He showed them his face.  “And a man who stabbed me in the leg before the giant, monster in the dark nearly broke my back with his club.  And all the while, the judge up above yelled Hang him.  Hang him.”  The picture Becker painted seemed vivid enough.  All three men ran off screaming into the forest.

The following morning, the watch from Ingolstadt came out and asked plenty of questions.  The lady of the house could hardly move from her bed.  Her husband was missing, and so was Mister Muller.  The lady did pull herself together enough to confess Mister Muller brought some free rye flour out of which she made her bread.

“Mister Muller must have put the poison in the bread,” Hans said.

“We did not eat the bread,” Heidi said her line.  “It is bad for the waistline.”

“We did not eat the bread either, out of deference to the ladies.”

The watch officer did not exactly believe them, but it became more believable when they found Mister Wagner in the woods.  He was in no condition to be touched with other than perhaps by a few buckets of water, having soiled himself and apparently rolled in it.  And he yelled.  “I’ll get the law.  They tried to poison me.  I’ll have this place shut down.”  That much was clear.  The rest was garbled or unrepeatable.

They found Mister Schulz dead.  They found Mister Becker hiding up a tree yelling at them to not let the wolves get him.  No one found any wolves.

No one stopped them when they collected their wagon, mule, dog, cat, and three horses and left that place, and Pater asked, “So where do you think Mister Muller went?”

“Off to try his free flour somewhere else,” Heidi guessed.

“I wonder what he is honestly up to,” Hans said.

“Just what I was wondering,” Alderman agreed.

Avalon 9.3 Bewitches, part 3 of 6

Sukki stopped at the top of the last hill and looked at her amulet.  The Kairos was coming down from the northeast.  He appeared to be following the river.  Sukki shifted her eyes to the valley below and the water that made a thin blue line in the distance.  Now that they found the Danube, they would turn from traveling due east and follow the river, which ran to the northeast.  In this way, they should run right into Hans.  Sukki thought it was a good thing Lincoln had the database and knew the details of the route Hans took to get from Bremen to Zurich.  Sadly, it was skimpy on the details of what exactly happened along that route.

Sukki reigned back to go tell the others she found the river, and the village that sat where the river and road met.  The village looked peaceful enough. Hopefully, they could find a place to stop for the night.  Lincoln got badly cut, even if he said it was not so bad after Elder Stow and Nanette worked on it.  All the same, he could use the rest.

Back in the group, Nanette started whispering again.  “We are headed downhill and out of the Black Forest.  The Danube can’t be far away, and we haven’t run into any monsters or creatures, or anything like the Brothers Grimm described in their tales.”

“Just some highway robbers.”  Tony smiled at that thought.  “No Wolv this time,” he said.  “I did not know you were an aficionado of fairy tales.  Anyway, as I recall, most of those creatures would be counted as belonging to the Kairos, and they would know who we are and would not hurt us.  You know, like fairy godmothers and seven dwarfs.”

“Witches,” Nanette said.

“Like yourself?” Tony teased.

“Not funny,” Nanette objected.  “Alexis was very clear about that back in the days of Marco Polo before she left us.  From then until I lost my magic again, I would have to be careful with my magic, especially in Europe.  These are the days of witch hunts and burning people at the stake.  Even for a hundred years after the magic goes away, like what happened in Salem.”

Tony agreed.  “I never studied much about witch hunts and witch trials.  I mostly studied a thousand years of Rome, the republic and empire, and some Byzantine after the 440s.  I read some about what followed in the west, like the Franks, Huns, Vandals, and all those Goths, but it was mostly social and political reading, not really on daily life in the Middle Ages, and certainly not on the church—evangelism, heresy, and all that.  I understand the reformation that is going on around us.  Believe it or not, I agree with a lot of the reformers, even if I remain Catholic in my faith.  I think by our day, many of those reforms got into the Catholic Church as well, whether Rome admits it or not.”

“They burned Johanne at the stake,” Nanette reminded him.

Tony nodded in agreement again before he clarified his thoughts.  “No doubt many, if not most of the witch trials had nothing to do with magic or witches.  They were social or politically motivated, or mostly faith motivated, like people charged with heresy of one kind or another.  The church recognized they made a big mistake condemning Joan of Arc, and the Salem witch trials are now condemned, but most supposed witches are still on the books as condemned, whatever the reality.”

“Like William Tyndale,” Nanette said.

“Who?” Tony questioned the name.

“His heresy was translating the Bible into English,” Nanette said.  “That’s it.  They strangled him to death and then they burned his already dead body at the stake.”

“In the Black Forest?” Tony asked.

Nanette shook her head.  “England, or maybe the low countries.  I am not sure.”

“When was that?”

“About this time period,” Nanette said.  “I am not exactly sure.”

“Didn’t Professor Fleming talk about that?” Tony asked.

Nanette looked down on mention of their old professor.  Tony had been his student, and Nanette had been his Administrative Assistant as Decker called her.  “No.  I remember that from a story I heard in church.”

“Baptist church,” Tony confirmed, and Nanette nodded as they stopped moving.  Sukki came back from the front.  Tony and Nanette had to strain a little to hear.  Nanette looked around Tony and saw Elder Stow close to the road on one side.  He appeared to be staring into his scanner device.  She looked the other way but did not see Decker.  Decker appeared to be too deep in the woods, riding faithfully along their flank.

“This is Inga, my friend,” Sukki said.

Sukki pointed to a young woman that rode a horse beside her.  Nanette wondered where the woman came from, and what did Sukki mean by calling her a friend?  Nanette looked again at Tony.  He put a silly smile on his face, but he did not otherwise appear to be home.  He looked enchanted, and Nanette saw a brown mist try to get at her.  She quickly pulled her wand and batted the mist away while Sukki talked.

“We need to follow Inga.  She has a barn where we can stay until she decides what the Masters wish to do to us.”

“Follow,” Inga said.  “Follow me,” and Nanette put her fingers in her ears to clean them out.  Inga’s voice carried the bewitching.

“Of course,” Katie said, with a shake of her head.

“We are all friends here,” Lockhart added.

Nanette shouted.  “No!”  She caused a whirlwind to spin around Inga, like a mini tornado.  It picked up the witch and transported the witch and her horse miles behind the travelers where it dropped them in among the trees.  She honestly did not care if they crashed into the trees, got crushed, or survived, though she imagined the witch would ensure their survival.

“What was that?” Elder Stow asked as he came to the road with his weapon in his hand.

“The witch,” Nanette said as she turned to Tony and shouted, “Snap out of it.”  She caught her breath, paused, and focused the way Alexis taught her.  Her magic was not golden like Alexis, or fiery orange like Boston.  Her magic appeared green, like newborn leaves, and it came from her to set the others free.

It barely touched Katie before she shook her head again and said, “I’m free.  Zoe said as an elect I had some natural resistance to magic.  I just got caught by surprise.”

Decker rode up and asked what happened.  Elder Stow and Katie explained, and together they opted to ride beyond the village and find a defensible spot in the wilderness to camp for the night.  Nanette ignored the whole conversation.  She concentrated.  Sukki came free, followed by Lockhart.  Lincoln seemed free, and then Tony shook his own head like Katie and Nanette felt glad.  She ran out of strength and concentration.

“That witch was powerful,” she said as she caught her breath.

“Are you okay?” Decker asked.

Nanette nodded and swallowed.  “I caught her by surprise and unprepared and sent her miles from here, but I expect she will be back.  She mentioned the Masters.”

“I remember,” Katie said.  She looked at Lockhart, but he shrugged.  Apparently, Lockhart, Sukki, Lincoln, and Tony could not remember anything from the time they were under the spell.

“We should get moving,” Decker said.

“I will set the screens around our camp tonight,” Elder Stow volunteered.  “They blocked out other witches, and even the wraith.”

“Lincoln.  Are you okay?” Lockhart asked as Sukki started out front.

“Fine.  Fine,” Lincoln answered, but he shook his head again and dropped one hand to where he had been stabbed in the thigh.  It might not be open, bleeding, or in danger of infection, but the muscles would need time to heal, and it still hurt.



The travelers almost miss the Kairos as he crosses the river and heads for Augsburg. The travelers have to cross the river to head in the same direction, but it seems the witches and plenty of people are all headed for Augsburg, the home of Martin Luther. Until Monday, Happy Reading.